Anne of Green Gables | Study Guide

L. M. Montgomery

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Anne of Green Gables | Chapter 31 : Where the Brook and River Meet | Summary

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Summary

Anne spends a relaxing summer on doctors' orders. One day the Spencervale doctor notices her at a patient's house and sends Marilla a note warning her to keep Anne in the open air all summer and not allow her to study "until she gets more spring into her step." So Anne walks, rows, and picks berries until September, when she returns to school with new vigor and energy.

Miss Stacy's "careful, broadminded guidance" works wonders on her students, although Mrs. Lynde is suspicious of her new methods. Mindful of Anne's health, Marilla allows her to go on more outings—debates, skating parties, and sleigh drives. One day, she's astonished to realize Anne has grown taller than she. Marilla feels a "queer sorrowful sense of loss" at the thought of Anne's going away to teachers' college.

Anne grows in other ways as well. She talks much less, for one thing. When Marilla asks her about it, Anne laughs and says she'd rather keep her thoughts in her heart. Now almost old enough to use the long, pretentious words she once loved, she no longer wants to. The story club once so beloved of Anne and her friends has long since faded away, partly because of Miss Stacy's excellent guidance in not allowing them to "write anything but what might happen in Avonlea in our own lives."

Winter passes quickly into spring, and soon only two months remain before the entrance examinations at Queens'. Anne buries herself in her books. There will be other springs, but she won't be able to enjoy them unless she passes her exams.

Analysis

No doubt Anne has tired herself studying, but the Spencervale doctor's warning has a distinctly 19th-century quality. This is still an era in which women were believed to harm themselves by too much schoolwork. Female brains were thought weaker and more easily stressed than male ones. Because women's brains were smaller than men's, people reasoned men must be more intelligent. As one scientist wrote in 1879, "There are a large number of women whose brains are closer in size to those of gorillas than to the most developed male brains. This inferiority is so obvious that no one can contest it for a minute." He added that although there were certainly women more intelligent than men, they were as rare as "the birth of any monstrosity, as, for example, of a gorilla with two heads." Scientists also believed the female brain couldn't handle math or science. Perhaps this prejudice contributes to Anne's assertion she can't learn geometry.

For the most part, Anne—and Montgomery—are refreshingly untroubled by this particular form of sexism. Anne may worry about failing the geometry exam at Queen's, but she and Gilbert will share first place when the exam results are published; obviously, then, their geometry scores must be about the same. Anne studies hard and competitively, with her guardians' full support. Matthew is tremendously proud of her, and says so. Marilla is less forthcoming with praise, but she secretly agrees with Matthew. And it's Marilla who has told Anne, "I believe in a girl being fitted to earn her living whether she ever has to or not."

The reader may share Marilla's regret Anne has matured and is giving up her long words and constant chatter. Montgomery seems to give her a new personality from here until the end of the book. Never again will Anne say anything funny either on purpose or by mistake.

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